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  • Writer's pictureACBT London

You can't fail CBT...can you?

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

How to succeed in your Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) motorcycle training course.


CBT Compulsory Basic Training certificate with a pass stamp
The goal, success at CBT

In a previous blog post we discussed the CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) course and we explained that it is not a test so, strictly speaking there is no defined “pass” or “fail”.


However, at the same time, this does not mean that it is an attendance day course. In other words, one where the trainee attends, completes the elements, and receives a completion certificate.


We have produced this blog post to explain this in more detail and also to help ensure you stand the best possible chance of successfully completing your course.

Training is a two-way street.

There is a responsibility on the side of the trainee to demonstrate safety and competence in each of the CBT elements throughout the course of the day. As opposed to a defined “pass” or “fail” outcome, the Instructor will carry out a continual assessment of the trainee and his/her responsibility is to then decide whether the trainee may be deemed a safe and competent rider. The CBT certificate is then issued to successful candidates allowing them to ride a motorcycle unaided for a period of two years so they can build on what they have been taught and continue to learn, on their own.

At times a trainee may be advised that they will not be participating in the road ride element (Element E) as they haven’t reached the necessary standard of competence for that during the practical session (Element C). This can also be disappointing for the trainee. The instructor has to make a decision regarding the safety of the trainees whilst on the road, his/her own and also the safety of the wider public and other road users. It is not a decision that is taken lightly and we at ACBT London do not take chances with safety. After all, safety is the primary objective of the CBT course.

It is important this is understood because trainees can become disappointed and feel let down during the day if they are not issued the coveted certificate or they are not taken on the road. The problem with this is that across the internet, on social media groups and motorcycle forums I have seen many inaccurate comments being made that can mislead a prospective trainee and as a by-product, cause disappointment.

Our Instructor will do everything possible to ensure your success during the CBT course however training is a two-way street. Success depends on the trainee as much as on the trainer for success in any form of training environment. Everyone is different. We all process information and learn in different ways. Therefore different people may need more or less training time. Some may complete the CBT course in one day and others may not and some may need more time to learn. The information video produced by the DVSA highlights this fact.


It's not about the money.


ACBT London motorcycle instructor with trainees and a scooter during a CBT motorcycle training course in London
CBT course in progress

I have often seen comments online levelling the unfair and inaccurate accusation at training schools that the reason people are being sent away without a certificate at CBT is so more money can be squeezed out of them. It’s not about the money. Think about it. Most training schools will ask you to return at a reduced rate. Each unsuccessful trainee then is a valuable diary slot being sold for less than full price whereas if that trainee had been successful that diary vacancy would have earned the training school more income. Believe me, it would be more profitable for training schools if every single trainee obtained their CBT certificate at the first attempt. The decision to not award a CBT, certainly at our school, is always on the basis of safety, nothing else, certainly with our school.

Our instructor is very experienced, very well qualified, and with an excellent reputation for the quality of his training. He is very well equipped to make an accurate diagnosis of a trainee’s safety on the road.

If you have been successful at CBT then great, congratulations. If you haven’t, what’s the worse thing that can happen? So you need more training, that’s all it is. Remember, in London, it takes around thirty lessons before the average car driver passes his/her test and is allowed to drive on the road unaided. The average CBT candidate, on the other hand, will spend a total of the equivalent of five car driving lessons before potentially being allowed to drive the highest risk motorised vehicle on the road. With the highest casualty rate. With the highest chance of serious or fatal injury.

According to .gov in 2020 there were more than 115,000 road casualties in the UK. A casualty is considered anyone who reported some form of injury as a result of a road traffic collision (rtc). Those injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to fatalities, of which there were nearly 1500. 13,000 of those casualties were motorcyclists. Of the 1500 fatalities, 285 were motorcyclists. That’s 19%. But when you consider that across the UK a motorbike only accounts for between 1-2% of road traffic those figures take on a different meaning. Puts it into perspective doesn’t it? It’s not about the money. Believe me, certainly not in the case of our school.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.


Trainees on motorcycles learning to ride a motorcycle
Getting to grips with a motorcycle for the first time.

As with everything in life, the key to success is all in prior preparation. Don’t forget the six P’s, the old Police mantra: “Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance”. So, we will try to signpost you as much as possible to help you achieve the best possible chance of success.

1: First, start here. Look at and understand this video by the DVSA, the government body that manages the CBT course syllabus so you understand what to expect when you take your CBT course.

2: How much prior experience have you had on motorcycles? None? Then before booking a CBT course we recommend at least a prior hour lesson so we can begin to work with you to give you the skills you need. At the end of the lesson you can decide if you would like another before booking your course. Many trainees find this route very satisfying because it allows you to practice the necessary skills in bitesize chunks. You can book an hour lesson here.

3: What bike do you wish to train on, automatic or manual? We have a blog post that explores the differences between the two. Many trainees choose a manual bike because they’ve been told that an automatic bike isn’t a “real bike” whereas actually it may not be the best option for them. It is your course, think about what you want from motorcycling, don’t allow others to make decisions with your money. We are always happy to offer impartial advice and guidance so if unsure give us a call and we’ll discuss your requirements with you.

Remember, your choice of training bike can have an effect on your success at CBT so the correct choice is important. If you have never ridden a manual bike and have no prior experience of using a clutch and gearbox we don’t recommend a manual bike to start off with. Some can pick it up quickly and easily but others can find it tricky. Have a think about what are the most important priorities in your own case. Is time a factor? Automatic bikes are easier to learn with zero motorbike experience resulting in a higher chance of success. If the ultimate objective is to get on the road and mobile as quickly as possible then the automatic may be the best choice.

If, on the other hand, time is not an issue and you have your heart set on riding a manual bike then how about some prior preparation before the CBT date? An hour lesson before your course can help you make an informed decision on whether the manual bike is for you. It will also give you valuable practice time to begin to get to grips with controlling a bike.


Don't forget, you could always come back at a later date to learn a manual bike but you will already have attained your CBT certificate, which allows you to ride either. We offer a short Get-In-Gear course to teach you how to ride a manual bike.

5: The Highway Code. You would have seen in the DVSA video that you “MUST have a GOOD knowledge of the highway code BEFORE the CBT course”. Knowledge if the Highway Code is one of the most important instruments in your safety toolkit. It is amazing how many people attend CBT courses totally disregarding the importance of the Highway Code, to their cost. Your CBT document certifies that you are safe and competent. If you do not know the Highway Code you are neither and we cannot award you a CBT certificate confirming that you are.


Motorcycle training books on a shelf. The DVSA guide to Traffic Signs, Motorcycle Roadcraft, The DVSA guide to riding and the official Highway Code
Official motorcycle training publications

Please ensure you have studied the Highway Code before attending the course. You cannot hoodwink the Instructor on this. He will know straight away if you know the rules of the road or not. Your road ride will be terminated if it is clear that your knowledge of the rules of the road is insufficient for you to ride safely and you will not attain the certificate. This means you would have to return at a later date impacting on your time and finances as you would have to pay a further fee to complete the course.

There are some occasions where a candidate attends the course and hasn’t even looked at the Highway Code book. On these occasions the trainee will not be taken on the road and will have to return to complete the course. You have to make an investment in your safety and that of other road users. The Highway Code is an essential part of road safety.

Remember, learning the Highway Code is your responsibility, it is not the Instructor’s responsibility to teach you. You have signed a driving licence agreeing that your will a: abide by the rules of the road and b: will keep updated with changes. If you don’t study it you are breaking the law. We want you to be on a motorcycle, but we want you to be safe on a motorcycle.

You can obtain a copy of the current official Highway Code here. Whenever you purchase driving guides or publications, always ensure you invest in the official government guides.

If you prefer app based learning the DVSA have produced an app designed for those who wish to study for the theory test. It is also a great way to learn the rules of the road. The free version provides you with a number of practice questions to help you begin to learn however if you upgrade to the full version you will have at your disposal all 500 theory test questions. By regularly practising you will quickly build up a good knowledge of the highway code. It will make you a safer rider and will give you a better chance of success at CBT. Simply go to your App Store and search for the official DVSA Theory Test app.

If you plan to take your full motorcycle test post CBT you will need to pass your theory test. Why not start practising for that now? For a more basic introduction the DVSA have produced the award winning Ridefree package. It is free and covers five modules designed to give you an introduction into safe motorcycling, the highway code and hazard awareness. On completion you get a certificate which you can show your Instructor. Please take it seriously, it won’t help you if you ask your auntie or your mates to do it for you. Remember, you are investing in your safety.

Motorcycle Instructor and Trainee smiling and awarding a CBT certificate by a scooter.
Success! A happy trainee with his CBT certificate.

6: Attitude, attitude, attitude. Ultimately, safety boils down to your attitude. A good road attitude is essential for safety on the road. Don’t treat your training as some minor hoop the government makes you jump through. Driving is a serious activity and riding a motorcycle more so as we are more vulnerable than any other vehicle on the road. We treat the course in a light hearted manner so that people enjoy the learning process. We think people learn better in a relaxed, fun environment, but there is a serious side to this motor biking malarkey. So be mature and grown up about it and put the graft in. You will still have a good time training but with the added bonus of having a much higher chance of being successful. Failing to plan is planning to fail.

We hope you have found this article enjoyable. We want to give you the best possible chance of achieving that motorcycling dream and the six key points above will give you the best chance of making the dream reality. If you need any further advice don’t hesitate to get in touch. Ride safe!


Ready to book your CBT? Do it here!


Gift cards: Give the gift of motorcycling with one of our e-Gift cards. See our website for details.


Next week: We look at "SMIDSY" one of the most common forms of collision involving motorbikes. Read it here.


©️ 2022 ACBT London Rider Training. No part of this article may be reproduced without permission.




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